Children's Advocate, Potter Carol Berman, 66

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Carol May Podhoretz Berman, 66, a speech pathologist-audiologist who became a leader at a nonprofit children's organization, died of complications of lung cancer Nov. 19 at Sibley Memorial Hospital. She lived in Washington.

Mrs. Berman worked at Zero to Three, a children's advocacy group, from 1983 until 1999. She was associate director for part of the time, and for eight years, she coordinated the group's fellowship program. In 2000, she was elected to its board.

"She had a passion, a real passion, for making this a better world for at-risk babies," said Matthew E. Melmed, the group's executive director. "Carol was amazingly sharp and funny and she could be very focused. She paid a lot of attention to details. She really saw how all the various pieces fit together."

Her talent at identifying and nurturing leaders from a wide variety of fields led to the establishment of Zero to Three's fellowship program, Melmed said. Later, her unusual switch from staff member to board member demonstrated her ability to create strong relationships and recognize the different roles played by the staff and board, he said.

A Democratic activist, she was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 as executive director to the advisory National Council on the Handicapped in the Department of Education (now the National Council on Disability).

Her husband of 42 years, Democratic adviser and lobbyist Michael S. Berman, called her "the strongest and most stable component" of his life in his book "Living Large: A Big Man's Ideas on Weight, Success and Acceptance" (2006).

He wrote about their first blind date, when she almost rejected him, a 288-pound political campaigner in Duluth, Minn. Instead, she invited him in and they had a drink. His positive reaction when she said she became a speech pathologist to help people won her over. They went out on 29 of the next 30 nights, and she brought up marriage, he wrote.

Mrs. Berman was born in Schenectady, N.Y., and grew up in Troy, N.Y. She graduated from Syracuse University and received a master's degree in speech pathology and audiology from Indiana University in 1964 . She received a doctorate in the same field in 1992 from Walden University.

She worked as a speech pathologist and audiologist at the Sister Kenny Foundation in Minneapolis and at Children's Hospital in Washington. She also was a volunteer pottery teacher for young people at the Sitar Center for the Arts in Washington and a part-time potter on her own.

For the past several years, she committed substantial time to her studio, Thoughtful Pottery, making objects to give to friends and acquaintances for special events.

In addition to her husband, of Washington, survivors include a brother.

-- Patricia Sullivan

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